The Bourne Supremacy
Universal // PG-13 // $34.98 // May 23, 2006
Review by Joshua Zyber | posted June 20, 2006
R E P L A Y
A D V I C E
Highly Recommended
E - M A I L
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R E V I E W S
Graphical Version
The Movie:
Although he may have seemed an unlikely choice of action hero when the project was first announced, Matt Damon proved a capable and charismatic lead for 2002's The Bourne Identity, a nominal adaptation of the Robert Ludlum thriller. The film revitalized the international espionage genre, long since flagging under the weight of the aging and increasingly irrelevant James Bond franchise and its imitators. The movie was a big hit and spawned an equally successful sequel, The Bourne Supremacy, that like its predecessor knows how to grab an audience by the throat and not let go until they're exhausted from the thrill ride.

As we last left our amnesiac hero, Jason Bourne had fallen off the grid to live in seclusion with his new girlfriend (Franka Potente). As Supremacy opens we find them in India, but more importantly so does a Russian assassin who'd already framed Bourne for a political hit in Berlin and now wants to tie up the loose ends. Soon on the run from both the mysterious group that set him up and the CIA who want to take him into custody, Bourne must once again jump into the fray of international intrigue to find out why he's being hunted and scare everyone into leaving him the hell alone.

Smart, capable, inventive, and dangerous, Jason Bourne is everything James Bond has forgotten how to be. He's a no-nonsense intelligence operative who dispenses with the bad puns and sexist womanizing in favor of strategic, decisive action. Trained and ready to kill whenever necessary, Bourne is faster, stronger, and smarter than anyone sent against him. This is not a man you want to mess with.

Perhaps even more so than the first film, The Bourne Supremacy shares next to nothing in common with its source novel other than the title (for a more faithful adaptation of Ludlum's writing, the 1988 Bourne Identity TV miniseries starring Richard Chamberlain honestly isn't half bad). The Matt Damon movies are action pictures first and foremost, fortunately graced with intelligent scripts, terrific casts (how can you go wrong with Chris Cooper, Brian Cox, and Joan Allen among the featured players?), and crackerjack directing. Taking over the reigns from Doug Liman, new director Paul Greengrass brings a very tense, visceral immediacy to the franchise. Some viewers have criticized his shaky-cam style, but he certainly puts you right in the thick of the action, which can be just as disorienting as it is intense. He stages hand-to-hand combat with a raw brutality and delivers a climactic car chase that may be the grisliest ever put to film. Quibble if you want, but the Bourne movies are great entertainment and The Bourne Supremacy is every bit as good as the first film.

The HD DVD:
The Bourne Supremacy debuts on the HD DVD format courtesy of Universal Studios Home Entertainment. For reasons understood only by marketing executives, they've chosen to release the second film in the series before the first, The Bourne Identity, which is as yet not scheduled for the format.

[Update: The Bourne Identity was finally released on HD DVD in July of 2007.]

HD DVD discs are only playable in a compatible HD DVD player. They will not function in a standard DVD player or in a Blu-Ray player. Please note that the star rating scales for video and audio are relative to other High Definition disc content, not to traditional DVD.

Video:
The Bourne Supremacy HD DVD is encoded on disc in High Definition 1080p format using VC-1 compression. The movie is presented in its theatrical aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 with letterbox bars at the top and bottom of the 16:9 frame.

Now this is what High Definition is all about! The video transfer on this disc is, in a word, fantastic. The picture is razor sharp with an outstanding sense of three-dimensional depth. Colors are incredibly vivid and the contrast range is flawless from the inky blacks of Berlin at night to the blinding whites of Moscow snow. This is a slick, glossy, and enormously impressive image that far and away exceeds anything possible on DVD.

Any issues I found are all minor. The movie's photography is occasionally grainy, though the grain is generally well rendered and doesn't look like video noise. The sharpness and detail in the picture are very pleasing, but in a few scenes did seem to be artificially enhanced. I had to walk right up to my screen to look for edge halos, and although I did find some around sharply contrasted black-against-white edges, they're so minor that this is really a case of perfectionist nit-picking. This is a great-looking disc, and of the titles released so far is my choice of demo material for showing off the HD DVD format.

The Bourne Supremacy HD DVD is not flagged with an Image Constraint Token and will play in full High Definition quality over an HD DVD player's analog Component Video outputs.

Audio:
The movie's soundtrack is encoded in Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 format and is just as exciting as the picture quality. The film has a slam-bang sound mix that's incredibly aggressive and directional during the action scenes yet restrained and nuanced during the drama scenes. Fidelity and clarity are excellent in both the musical score and sound effects. Dynamic range is terrific from the highs to the lows. You'll really feel every punch and gunshot in your gut. This soundtrack showcases all the best that Hollywood's audio wizards have to offer, and it's delivered exceptionally well on the HD DVD.

Subs & Dubs:
Optional subtitles - English captions for the hearing impaired, French, or Spanish.
Alternate language tracks - French or Spanish DD+ 5.1.

Extras:
Most of the bonus features on this HD DVD title are recycled from the DVD edition and are presented in Standard Definition video with MPEG2 compression. All of the supplements from the Bourne Supremacy DVD appear to have carried over.

  • Audio Commentary - Director Paul Greengrass delivers a surprisingly dull track. He appears more animated in the video featurettes.
  • Explosive Deleted Scenes - Six very short scenes running a total of 11 minutes are presented in poor-quality video. Included among these is an alternate ending very much inferior to the one eventually chosen.
  • Matching Identities: Casting (5 min.) - The focus of this featurette should be pretty clear from the title.
  • Keeping It Real (5 min.) - Discussion about the choice of Greengrass as director, and the film's handheld style.
  • Things That Go Boom (4 min.) - A look at how the house explosion was achieved.
  • On the Move with Jason Bourne (5 min.) - The film's international locations are highlighted.
  • Bourne to Be Wild: Fight Training (4 min.) - Obviously enough, a showcase of the fight choreography.
  • Crash Cam: Racing Through the Streets of Moscow (6 min.) - Examination of the film's climactic car chase.
  • The Go-Mobile Revs Up the Action (7 min.) - A further look at the chase scenes, highlighting the innovative camera truck used to get some of the more impressive high-speed footage.
  • Anatomy of a Scene: The Explosive Bridge Chase Scene (5 min.) - Contrary to its title, nothing explodes in this featurette. It's really a look at the look a the stunt where Matt Damon jumps off a bridge onto a moving barge.
  • Scoring with John Powell (5 min.) - The musical score gets some attention.
A couple of featurettes originally found on the Bourne Identity - Explosive Extended Edition DVD have also been ported over.
  • The Bourne Mastermind (5 min.) - Some token appreciation for Robert Ludlum is offered, though the piece implies that the movies are more faithful to his novels than they actually are.
  • The Bourne Diagnosis (6 min.) - The psychology of the characters is explored for a few minutes.
Most of these featurettes are brief and shallow EPK material. Exclusive to the HD DVD, however, is a brand new feature:
  • Bourne Instant Access - Essentially the same thing that Warner Home Video branded the "In-Movie Experience" on its Constantine HD DVD. Whatever you want to call it, this pretty cool feature amounts to a running stream of production information and behind-the-scenes footage viewable in the corner of the screen while the movie is playing. Much of the material is taken directly from the above listed featurettes, so if you decide to watch everything you'll find a lot of repetition, but the Instant Access organizes it to coincide directly with the scenes in the movie being discussed. Although a little jumpy at times, in my opinion this was a much more interesting way to view the material than cycling through a string of tedious 5-minute featurettes. And unlike its implementation on Constantine, on the Bourne Supremacy disc the feature runs the entire length of the movie.
Final Thoughts:
An enormously fun movie with eye-popping HD picture, great sound, and a pretty interesting new approach to interacting with video supplements, The Bourne Supremacy HD DVD has got a little of everything you could want in home video entertainment. Highly Recommended.

Related Articles:
The Bourne Identity (HD DVD)
The Brothers Grimm (HD DVD) - Matt Damon
Syriana (HD DVD) - Damon
HD DVD Review Index
Toshiba HD-A1 HD DVD Player
Toshiba HD DVD Product Introduction Event



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